Flat pedal curious

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  • Flat pedal curious
  • Premier Icon Harry_the_Spider
    Subscriber

    Toying with the idea of moving away from SPDs. I’ve been clipped in for 20 years so don’t know any different.

    What shoes are people wearing for general off road cocking-about duties?

    I wear Shimano, OH likes FiveTens. Both are more than good enough.

    Premier Icon sarell
    Subscriber

    Afternoon,

    I’ve been thinking about this too, but not sure if it’s a good call as I think I use the clips when spinning more than I realise.
    Though I think i’m only thinking it so I can buy something and tinker with the bike!!

    For the routes I do I think clips are fine.
    Though I did go for so Ride Concept shoes, but think I much prefer the skinny road style XC shoe.

    I’ll be keen to hear what you think to being unclipped!

    I hope you’re well

    Harry, for cocking about duties, I use old running shoes. I get 250, 300 miles out of them, so they’re still in decent nick, but are fine for buggering about local woods etc. Any old trainers will be okay

    No need to spend a fortune if you’re unsure. Then if you like it, a good pair for longer rides, five tens, whatever.

    Van Halen
    Member

    for dicking about any old shoe and pedal will do really. cheapo plastic nukeproofs and etnies/ vans are fine for a few jumps and messing about providing its not too rocky where you are. some people prefer a stiff sole – for me i find a stiff sole makes the pedal feel a bit vague with flats and i cant ride as confidently. i think its cos my brain thinks i’m clipped in when i`m not.

    if its minging a sticky shoe helps but costs increase significantly. you dont need a sticky shoe if you have half decent technique. most modern pedals provide enough mechanical grip.

    for xc riding clips are a no brainer for me. the energy saved is massive.

    i come from a flats background but happy to ride clips and do so for wales/xc stuff but flats locally in the slop.

    oh i find i need to drop the saddle nearly an inch if going to flats from a good pedalling position on clips.

    after 5 years of clipped i moved to flats on a bike early 2018 and another bike in sept2018, still riding SPD on xc mtb and drophandle.

    it takes a long long time to get used to them, as you say not as efficient peddling, but once you get the knack, heals dug deep when descending, then my feet are stuck like glue.
    i now prefer flats for proper offroad, although i miss the spds on non technical climbs and smoother trails.

    a good grip pedal such as DMR vault or burgtec and a stealth rubber sole be that adidas terrex or 510 and you are good to go.. dont buy cheap.

    510s can be heavy, thick soled and look special.
    in summer i ride wearing my five tennies approach shoes, grip is superb and you can wear them down the pub. (currently under £50 on adidas, less 20% discount from vouchercodes.co.uk)

    Premier Icon guandax
    Subscriber

    Would never go back to SPD’s after having used them for years. FiveTen are my go to shoes with Nukeproof pedals. I think it’ll make you a better rider. Certainly safer if you get into trouble.

    trumpton
    Member

    I am a lifelong flat pedal fan and use the new On one flat pedal shoes. Not super grippy but not bad and are good in bad conditions.

    Premier Icon Pyro
    Subscriber

    I’ve been using a pair of 5.10 Impact VXis I got cheapish off a PSA on here. Started trying to use flats alongside my SPDs after a similar 20+ years of using SPDs exclusively.

    I’d counter the ‘any old shoe and pedal’ thought above with the logic that if it doesn’t work and feel right, you won’t stick with it. I bought decent pedals (CB Stamps) but was just using old trainers and it felt rubbish – didn’t want to continue using flats as I just kept losing grip and taking chunks out of my shins. Adding a decent pair of shoes worked wonders, and I’m as happy on normal/longer rides on flats now as I am on clips. My jump technique is still crap – as evidenced at Dirt Factory the other night – but it was crap on spuds anyway, I could just get a bit higher because I was clipped in. It’s one of the things I’m consciously working on on the flats.

    erictwinge
    Member

    once youve tried five-tens nothing else comes close. bought a pair of shimano ones once on a ridiculous deal but they went on ebay after one ride.

    im thinking of going the other way, need to teach myself to not dab so much!!

    the energy saved is massive.

    I can accept that SPDs offer some efficiency gains, but massive? That’s spurious at best.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    for xc riding clips are a no brainer for me. the energy saved is massive.

    Interesting. I’ve just switched the gravel bike to flats for winter (having always used flats off road, but SPD-SL on the road). So far I’ve not been able to detect any reduction in average speed in half a dozen 3-5 hour rides.

    Anyway, back to the OP. I love my Vaude Moab shoes, buy 5:10 are the go-to option for most folk it seems.

    Premier Icon Pyro
    Subscriber

    So far I’ve not been able to detect any reduction in average speed in half a dozen 3-5 hour rides.

    Speed, no – but do you feel more knackered/is your heart rate matching etc?

    That said, you might just have really good flat pedal technique and really poor SPD technique, in which case the difference might be negligible. Like nobeer’s statement, I don’t think the difference is ‘massive’, but I have found I notice the difference on a long ride. Other people’s experience might well vary!

    Premier Icon snotrag
    Subscriber

    I rode clipped in for about least 15 years, from Road to DH racing.

    Couple of years back tried flats again. Massive difference. So much more confidence on the descents, can feel the pedals through the sole and modulate the pressure (like pressing your edges through a ski boot). Very little lost in ‘efficiency’ for MTB.

    I now ride clipped in on Road/Gravel bike and some milder XC stuff, flats for proper MTB. Regularly doing both I think also has merit.

    I’d counter the ‘any old shoe and pedal’ thought above with the logic that if it doesn’t work and feel right, you won’t stick with it. I bought decent pedals (CB Stamps) but was just using old trainers and it felt rubbish – didn’t want to continue using flats as I just kept losing grip and taking chunks out of my shins

    once youve tried five-tens nothing else comes close. bought a pair of shimano ones once on a ridiculous deal but they went on ebay after one ride.

    100% this in my opinion. Don’t fanny about using your walking boots or running shoes. Get a pair of Five-Tens and some good qualtiy big flat pedals. The difference is huge.

    A half-arsed attempt will just see you back to SPD after 3 rides wondering what all the fuss is about.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Well, to be fair, it’s only half a dozen rides so far. Maybe I’ll be able to detect a difference with more data, but I have been looking and so far can’t measure anything significantly different (heart-rate, perceived effort etc).

    GCN did quite a nice lab test that seemed to show that there wasn’t really any difference. Then had to go back out on the road and record another less scientific video to justify the fact that they wanted to carry on using their clipless pedals anyway 🙂

    Personally, I think the whole pulling up thing is a myth (outside of the sort of sprint efforts I’ll never make) and you can pedal circles just as well with decently grippy flats and pedals with pins. Plus it’s a darn sight easier when you get off the bike (whether that’s hike-a-bike or a cafe stop).

    If there is a difference I suspect it has more to do with the stiffness of the shoe than whether it’s connected to the pedal or not, but that’s just a hunch.

    Anyway, it’s an old argument and I don’t really have anything new to add. Each to their own. I’ll probably put the clipless pedals back on the gravel bike in the summer, but probably just because it feels right.

    Premier Icon roverpig
    Subscriber

    Oh, one negative I have found to flats on the (rigid) gravel bike is that my feet can get knocked off the pedals on rough ground. Don’t find that an issue on the full-sus MTB and don’t recall it being an issue on a hardtail either funnily enough, but I do notice it with the gravel thing.

    Those On One shoes look like they could be worth a punt for the money.A set of descent low profile pedals make a difference too,I bought a set of Superstar Nan X Evo’s 15 months ago when I went over to using flats and they have been very good. I’ve just ordered a second set and a rebuild kit for first as they have developed wear/play of late. 35% off at mo ,which is a nice bargain.

    I really enjoy riding on flats now,I can’t think of any reason at the mo to go back to clipless.

    Premier Icon richmtb
    Subscriber

    Rode spd’s for years and have been on flats pretty much exclusively for off road for about 5 years.

    The do take a while to get used to. Dropping heels on the descents you pick up very quickly but the thing that caught me out was sudden changes in cadence. I’d just forget I wasn’t clipped in and my feet would fly off when I started spinning the pedals at the bottom of a climb! Thankfully I don’t do it anymore but I still occasionally find myself “unclipping” as I roll to a stop.

    I use Shimano GR7’s and XT flat pedals.

    Van Halen
    Member

    flat/spd and energy saved is a personal thing probably. i was surprised at the difference it made for me. i do pull up alot which you just cant do riding flats. i was a lifelong flats user before though.

    i just think its stupid to shell out loads of cash on an experiment if you dont have to. we all have some Vans (or another flat shoe equivalent) so just spend 15 quid on some superstar plastics from on-one and go play in the street and local trails before committing over £150 on posh pedals and shoes that might be crap for you.

    you will scrape your shins regardless. just like you fall off yr bike sideways at lights when you first try clips. its a right of passage.

    Premier Icon Pyro
    Subscriber

    Well, to be fair, it’s only half a dozen rides so far. Maybe I’ll be able to detect a difference with more data, but I have been looking and so far can’t measure anything significantly different (heart-rate, perceived effort etc)

    Sorry roverpig, wasn’t having a go! I’d agree with you, someone with good flats technique could easily be as efficient or better than someone with poor clips technique.

    As far as I remember*, the physics suggests that clips could be more efficient by up to about 30-40%, but that’s the variance between best-case scenario on clips and worst-case on flats. Effectively, the worst-case on flats is a flat foot that can only able to push down in the front quarter – 1:30-4:30 on a clock face. Likewise the best-case on clips is being able to push down and pull up through the front and rear quarters and beyond, with only dead spots across top dead centre and bottom dead centre. Neither of those are particularly realistic though, and the actual inputs will be way more nuanced – a decent grippy shoe on good pinned flats probably comes very close to a mechanical connection when used properly.

    Me, personally, I do feel like I’m more efficient on clips, but that’s probably either placebo effect or because I’m not long back on flats and my techniques still poor. That said, the gap doesn’t feel as big as I expected it to.

    *Caveat that with the Sam Vimes “Always take into account the fact you might be dead wrong”

    Premier Icon roverpig
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    No problem. No offense taken. It’s all personal innit and you can’t argue with the Commander of The Watch 😄

    once youve tried five-tens nothing else comes close. bought a pair of shimano ones once on a ridiculous deal but they went on ebay after one ride.

    100% this in my opinion. Don’t fanny about using your walking boots or running shoes. Get a pair of Five-Tens and some good qualtiy big flat pedals. The difference is huge.

    He’s asking about cocking about in the woods. If I’m going to our local jump spot, to bugger about on stuff we built, running trainers are fine, as are vans, etnies etc as people have done for years.

    No need to get my five tens out.

    I’m answering what he’s asking, not ‘what is best for flats’…

    JonEdwards
    Member

    I chop and change between clips and flats depending on ride/mood/terrain/weather. Took me a long while (and many shin punctures) to get used to flats though, having started using toeclips 6 weeks after leaning to ride a bike.

    Easier to play with the bike on clips and easier/lazier on high speed rocky stuff, much better for hard, limit of strength/traction technical climbing (being able to just drag the bike up a step when you’re about to stall no matter where in the pedal stroke you are).
    Flats are a whole world more fun on “death-on-a-stick” downhill runs. The ability to get a foot off, and more importantly back on solidly again before the next corner is not to be underestimated. General riding around, there’s very little in it.

    You’ll need to run your “pedalling” saddle height a gnats cock lower (about 1/4″ for me). Dropping your saddle for descending is almost mandatory, as if you’re on tippytoe when the back wheel hits something, you’ll get bounced off the pedals when the saddle hits you in the nads. Drop your heels – no more than that!

    5:10s of choice and a pair of Burgtec Composites will see you right, If you want to make a proper go of flats, splash the cash. There’s nothing more unnerving than feeling the bike drop off your feet – and as a clips rider for 20 years, you’ll want all the help you can get to avoid it (buggering around in the local woods or not – its all the same riding and its the same confidence or lack of it!)

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    Yeah but… Now, I’ll happily ride on any half-suitable shoe. But if you’re an experienced rider that’s totally used to SPDs then it can be a pretty steep learning curve, and also very frustrating, because you tend to try and ride like normal, and if you’ve got ingrained bad SPD habits that can leave you really struggling, which is where 5 10s or similar can make a big difference.

    Premier Icon duncancallum
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    What size feet are you andy?

    Premier Icon timbog160
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    5.10’s for me. I’m another chopper and changer – flats and clips both have pros and cons and I like to be able to switch between them. The revelation with flats for me was placing my feet much more centrally (rather than using the ball of the foot)…

    Premier Icon duncancallum
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    I use vaudes and might try the RC next.

    If you’ve clown feet your welcome to borrow some

    Premier Icon sirromj
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    I wear vans through spring to autumn for commuting. But they were a mistake to wear on an actual mtb ride as they offer no protection against sticky uppy things hidden the undergrowth alongside the trail. Painful toes for months after. The bulk of 510s helps protect your toes a bit more.

    When it comes to adjusting to flat pedals practice riding standing with as much of your weight through your feet as possible and a loose relaxed grip on the bars (at least until it gets rough and gnarly).

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    etnies/ vans are fine for a few jumps and messing about

    I rode etnies for a while, they were brilliant for feeling and gripping the pedals so for jumps and stuff, but felt like a right chore for pedalling cos they were so soft.

    I’ve now got 5.10s and they are harder to ride in – not sure why, I think the pins are hooking up in between the circles on the sole so I cannot shift around my foot like I wanted to.

    I find both worse for pedalling than SPDs though. I do lift my foot on the back stroke a bit on SPDs – not pulling up as such but un-weighting. I’d love to do an experiment to measure the difference in forces for my pedalling and other people’s.

    The revelation with flats for me was placing my feet much more centrally (rather than using the ball of the foot)…

    Yeah, see I learned to do this with etnies, but I can’t pedal like that so on climbs I’d shift my foot forward. It’s exactly this shifting around I find hard with 5.10s. It was suggested that I try shorter pins though – have yet to order them. I don’t ride that bike very often 🙂

    razorrazoo
    Member

    I’ve now got 5.10s and they are harder to ride in – not sure why, I think the pins are hooking up in between the circles on the sole so I cannot shift around my foot like I wanted to.

    This is the point of the sticky rubber, your feet stick rather than move around. Remove the grip (either with less grippy shoes, or shorter pins) and your feet are going to get bounced on the rough stuff which is counter productive.

    I think you need to spend more time on your flats technique here (sounds like you’re running spds most of the time). Sometimes getting your foot in the wrong place can be a pain, but I’d rather the grip and have to re-adjust every so often, to be honest once you get used to to you don’t even thing about it (sort of like learning to unclip).

    I’m clips on my road and gravel bikes, but never got on with them on the mtb.

    Premier Icon jairaj
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    Can’t stress this enough… keep your heels down! It magically makes your feet stick to the pedal!

    Premier Icon mickolas
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    I’ve got DMR V8s on one bike and cheaper BBB BPD32 pedals on another. I don’t notice any difference between the two when riding and the BBB seem decent quality to me.

    I like to be able to dab a foot, or to not have to clip in if setting off uphill (after failing to clean a climb). I have recently purchased some 5-10 freeriders and noticed a massive improvement in security.

    longmover
    Member

    once youve tried five-tens nothing else comes close. bought a pair of shimano ones once on a ridiculous deal but they went on ebay after one ride.

    I hate 5-10s, I prefer shimanos currently using GR9 shoes and they are great. Don’t get lead down the road of getting the stickiest shoes and gripiest pedals, find a level of grip which you are comfortable with. Personally I like to be able to move my feet around and make adjustments when riding.

    Premier Icon notmyrealname
    Subscriber

    I’ve been riding clipped in for years, I can’t remember the last set of flat pedals I’ve had on an MTB.

    I’ve been out a couple of times this week on my new Solaris and decided to try flats. I was amazed how much better it felt to me! I’ve not got any bike specific shoes, just a pair of Nikes, which I think are skate shoes, and they work perfectly for me. The shoes are already about 10 years old and won’t die so they’ll do for me until I kill them off.

    droodling
    Member

    i rode spd for 20 years or so, until one winter ride when it was so cold the snow and ice turned my pedals into frozen snowballs. Thought it woul dbe a good time to try flats and I’ve been flats ever since. fivetens’s and Deity T-Mac pedals work a treat.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Sometimes getting your foot in the wrong place can be a pain, but I’d rather the grip and have to re-adjust every so often

    I’d be more tempted to agree with longmover – I think I want the right amount of grip, not maximum grip. This was discussed on the last thread we had on this topic, one occasion where not everyone disagreed with me 🙂

    Start with easy trails and practice. I learned to ride with flats on a pumptrack. I then hurt my knee and switched to flats for all my riding and it was pretty straightforward because of the hours id put in on the pumptrack.

    zezaskar
    Member

    To the OP, by all means try it and stick with it for some months.

    Like many, I was a SPD user for about a decade. My technique was crap, had lots of arm pump, knee and ankle pain were normal things. But SPD were the “serious mtber” way, so be it.

    I ride everything from longer trail days with lots of elevation to proper DH shuttle runs.

    Year and a half ago I decided to try flat pedals. Completely changed the way i ride, for the better. First 2 or 3 months were awful but then everything started to click and now I can’t imagine going back. It was a step back, 2 steps forward (or 3, or 4, 5 maybe?)
    What this meant to me:
    – good pedals and shoes are paramount
    – My knees, ankles and feet stopped hurting
    – Having my feet free made get my sh!t together in terms of technique and body positioning
    – It provides you with a ton of cues, if your feet start rattling then you´re doing something wrong
    – They keep me honest about my skills envelope. With clipless I would often completely loose composure but stayed attached to the bike and dodged bullets. With flat pedals if you start stepping outside your abilities your feet will let you know
    – Because you´re riding with “heavier feet” you relieve your hands and get much less arm pump
    – It feels so much healthier for your knees, your feet will land in their natural position and keep everything smooth for your body
    – To my surprise I much prefer to climb on flat pedals. You can still pull the pedal with a scrapping motion, I do this all the time. And I like it so much more to put down power and stamp on a proper platform rather than on a clipping mechanism that feels like a ball bearing. Never understood the efficiency loss thing, unless 0,5% means something for you
    – I always had the habit of rotating my hips, knees and feet in corners and certain jumps. With clipless this lead to either lots of unwanted unclipping or to max out the clipping tension. Not an issue on flats
    – You’ll be much less injury prone in falls and spills
    – Flat pedal shoes are just awesome for walking around, driving, hitting the pub
    – I like bikepacking sometimes, this way you’ll only carry 1 pair of shoes

    I could carry on with this, but I think you get the point.
    The only scenarios I could imagine to use clipless would be if I was racing XC for that tiny marginal Watt gain or being a Pro DH racer for the balls to the wall, composure out of the window moments.

    Shimano shoes are great for general trail riding and even “enduro” riding. They’re reasonably priced, dry fast, are durable and have good grip. Because of the aggressive shuttle days I wanted something with even more grip so got a pair of Five Ten Sam Hills, it’s like riding SPDs on the rought stuff, I forget about my feet.

    Premier Icon molgrips
    Subscriber

    Never understood the efficiency loss thing

    I think it’s down to your pedalling technique. I spent many years focusing on efficiently pedaling circles and flats inhibit that. If you just stomp on the pedals I’m sure there’s not much difference.

    It may be possible to develop an equivalent pedalling technique with flats, dunno.

    I am of the opinion that the best choice depends on the riding you want to do. That’s why I have flats in my big bike and SPDs on the others. I still find it harder climbing in flats but then that bike is shit on climbs anyway. But I swear it wasn’t as bad when it had SPDs on it.

    zezaskar
    Member

    I dislike the “pedaling in circles” term as it is more a smoothing of the pedal stroke rather than a push-pull action as more recent studies show. But yes, you can do that with flat pedals, I do it almost constantly.
    I can’t imagine clearing a step, slippery climb just stomping on the pedals.

    I guess is comes a lot to do with the pedal-shoe combo quality

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